A Root Awakening by Kate Collins is the 16th cozy in the Flower Shop Mystery Series featuring shop owner Abby Knight and her new husband Marco (available February 3, 2015).
The romance between Bloomers flower shop owner Abby Knight Salvare and her now husband, bar owner, and part-time private investigator Marco Salvare, has always been an integral part of this cozy series. Here, the happy couple are ready to settle down and buy a home together, but no sooner do they start looking than tragedy strikes. A painter, Sergio, who’d been working on the house they’re about to tour falls from his ladder. He’s hospitalized, and very quickly, whispers of foul play seem to haunt the scene. The whispers become louder when the married couple take on a new client: Sergio’s wife, the curvy, sexy Rosa, who’s convinced that her husband had no reason to fall on his own. Abby senses something amiss about the situation, but can’t help being just a teeny bit jealous of every time Marco looks at Rosa.
Yet Rosa is so charming that Abby winds up hiring her for some extra help at Bloomers, giving her more time to catch the killer. Only neither her investigation nor her new employee are as easy to handle as she’d hoped. She keeps being stonewalled by Sergio’s gruff coworkers, while Rosa is soon making herself indispensible in the flower shop—when she isn’t making suggestions about the case—much to Abby’s chagrin.
I inserted the last carnation. “I wouldn’t be too concerned about what anyone else says. Suspects always point the finger at someone else.”
Rosa muttered something about Adrian in Spanish, then said, “When will you talk to the rest of the crew?”
I tore off a big piece of wrapping paper and laid it on the table. “We’re planning to go back around five this evening.”
“Don’t do that yet.”
That did it.
“Rosa, you have to let Marco and me run this investigation. We need to interview the men while the incident is still fresh in their minds.”
With a Pffft, she waved away my protest as though it were inconsequential. “I’m not talking about the investigation.” She pointed to the arrangement. “The flowers. You’re missing a carnation in the back.”
I swiveled the pot for a look. Damn, she was right. The arrangement wasn’t balanced. How had I missed it?
“See?” she said brightly. “I’m a natural.”
But Abby doesn’t have much time to dwell on what’s happening at the store because she’s busy helping with the case, interviewing the painters, and tracking down assorted dead-end leads. Rosa seems to be turning up everywhere Abby looks, including at a potential subject’s home while she’s snooping, without Marco’s approval.
“It’s his art studio,” I whispered.
“Fine, now get back out here.”
Around the perimeter of the room were stacks of canvases in various sizes. More hung on the walls, all of them of women in various nude poses. What was really odd was that all of the women had identical long, curling dark hair. Had he painted the same woman over and over?
I focused the beam on the portrait nearest me and felt a chill run through my body.
Rosa Marin stared back, a sweetly seductive smile on her face.
I moved to the next canvas. It was of Rosa, too. With a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach, I swung the beam around the room. The walls were filled with nude portraits of Rosa Marin.
All the while, Abby’s sixth sense, which Marco and others are telling her to ignore, is going off about the couple who own the house Sergio fell from, who move in the middle of the night without leaving their contact information. Ever the crusader against injustice, Abby does a little side sleuthing, walking a fine line between trusting Marco and trusting herself.
The other notable secret to this series’ success is the hilarious supporting characters — some of the wackiest I’ve encountered in the cozy world, so much so that I look forward to seeing what crazy art project Abby’s mom will concoct next, and what annoying affectation her gorgeous cousin Jillian will adapt. Neither woman disappoints, with Abby’s mom trying to unload a series of flowerpots and a very pregnant Jillian obsessing over her future child’s every move.
A Root Awakening tests the bounds of Abby and Marco’s marriage as they haggle over potential new homes and how to handle their case. Abby hasn’t lost her feisty independent spirit, strong opinions or gut instincts when it comes to love or murder. In this volume especially, Abby exhibits a sixth sense about crime that has enough twists and turns to keep even the most ardent fan guessing, and applauding her ingenuity.
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Rachel Kramer Bussel is a freelance and erotica writer, and editor of over 50 anthologies, including The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories; Only You: Erotic Romance for Women; Serving Him: Sexy Stories of Submission and others. She tweets @raquelita and blogs at Lusty Lady.
Read all of Rachel Kramer Bussel's posts for Criminal Element.